Kelly loved a party – I couldn’t let her 40th birthday pass without doing something

Kelly Webster and daughter Lauren Thornton
Kelly Webster and daughter Lauren Thornton

Four years ago, tragedy struck when a mum and her daughter died when they were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes as they slept on a boat on Windermere. Today one family member tells Catherine Musgrove how they plan to mark events.

“Kelly was very outgoing, she loved a party, and her 40th was a date I couldn’t let pass without doing something.”

Kelly Webster

Kelly Webster

Tracy Arya, a bereaved sister and auntie, is determined to make something positive out of the tragic events which claimed the lives of Kelly Webster and her 10-year-old daughter Lauren Thornton.

The mother and daughter died together on board a Windermere yacht on April 1, 2013, after being overcome by carbon monoxide fumes from a badly installed generator.

As the fourth anniversary of the tragedy looms, so too does what would have been Kelly’s 40th birthday.

Tracy, 45, has decided the day shouldn’t go unmarked, and on Friday, March 17, Kelly’s Charity Ball will kick off at the Best Western Premier Hotel in Leyland, in aid of the Carbon Monoxide and Gas Safety Society.

Lauren Thornton

Lauren Thornton

Tracy, a mum-of-two from Leyland, said: “The aim is to get all of Kelly’s family and friends together under one roof.

“There will be a lot of mixed emotions on the day, but I’m happy that as we get closer to it, we have the charity ball to look forward to, and it will raise money, and more importantly, awareness for the carbon monoxide charity.”

During the night, there will be large photographs of Kelly and Lauren on display, a memory book for guests to fill in, and a DJ will be playing Kelly’s favourite songs.

Kelly and Lauren were found dead in the sleeping compartment on board a boat belonging to Kelly’s partner, Matthew Eteson’s during the Easter weekend on April 1, 2013.

Matthew Etesons boat

Matthew Etesons boat

The cause of death was poisoning by carbon monoxide from the exhaust system of a generator which Matthew Eteson had installed on board.

Eteson was a registered and experienced Gas Safe installer.

Shortly before the Easter weekend he fabricated an exhaust system for the generator and used the generator to power a fan heater in the passenger quarters while Kelly, Lauren and he himself slept.

The exhaust system was poorly designed and poorly constructed, using unsuitable materials. The generator was not secured or anchored to the floor and joints in the exhaust pipework were very poorly fabricated. The temperatures generated caused the pipework to fail as soft soldered joints melted , and as a result the exhaust gases containing carbon monoxide were discharged into the boat.

Kelly Webster

Kelly Webster

In addition to the poor standard of work, Mr Eteson also knew that the carbon monoxide detectors on the boat had been disabled.

At a trial in October 2015, Mr Eteson pleaded not guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence, but was found guilty.

In November that year he was spared jail and instead handed a two-year suspended sentence.

“It’s been horrendous,” Tracy said. “It does get better with time and I have a business which keeps me busy, but it’s always there.”

It was later revealed that Mr Eteson is on the Gas Safe Register as an engineer.

A spokesman for the Gas Safe Register said that as the work which led to the deaths was not on a gas appliance, he is still deemed fit to install and maintain gas appliances in homes and businesses.

Matthew Eteson

Matthew Eteson

The body has not been advised to remove him from the register and it is not within their powers to do so.

Tracy added: “It’s awful, he’s still going round working in people’s homes. But there’s nothing more we can do as a family, so instead we have top try and make a difference with things like the ball.

“The charity is over the moon we’re doing this, and everyone’s been so kind in donating raffle and auction prizes, including a lot of local businesses.

“I’m hoping it’s a really good night. It’ll be nice to see everyone dressed up and having fun.”

The evening includes a three-course meal. Tickets cost £30 for adults and £20 for children, available by calling Tracy on 07925 488970 or from T&G Web Design, 17 Golden Hill Lane, Leyland.

Standard of work such that failure ‘inevitable’

Kelly Webster, her partner Matthew Eteson and daughter Lauren Thornton were enjoying a weekend away on Windermere over Easter 2013.

But the weekend ended in tragedy on Easter Monday when Kelly and Lauren were poisoned as they slept.

It later transpired that Eteson, who was made ill by the fumes but survived, had modified an onboard generator.

During his trial for gross negligence manslaughter at Preston Crown Court in October 2015, the jury heard that he had modified a petrol generator, fitted it with a silencer and brought it below deck to power a heater.

The court heard from Howard Reed, an expert with 45 years of experience in the gas and ventilation industry. He said that the standard of work carried out by gas fitter Eteson to a generator on board his boat was of such a low standard that failure was “inevitable”.

Mr Reed said: “It was not a case of if it happens but when it happens.”

He added Eteson’s training would have equipped him with the knowledge to have known the modifications he made to the Hyundai generator were not suitable.

Eteson, of Appleton Road, Hale, achieved City and Guilds advanced crafts certification in 1992. As an accredited Gas Safe engineer he would also be trained in the dangers of carbon monoxide, the court heard.

The court also heard that carbon monoxide sensors on board had been disabled.

The deaths prompted an outpouring of grief in their hometown of Leyland, as people paid tribute to the popular mother and daughter.

Lauren, known to her friends as Lollipop, was a popular pupil in Year Six of St Anne’s RC Primary School.

She was described as having an infectious smile’ and would do anything to make others happy.

She died just days before her 11th birthday, and had already planned the celebration, with a trip to Blackpool followed by a sleep over with four of her friends.

She had a keen interest in sports and enjoyed netball and horse riding with her mum Kelly, with whom she was very close.